Have you ever considered attending a writing conference, but baulked at the expense, the travel or the worry that it might not be worth it?
Maybe you’re afraid to attend an event where you won’t know anyone, or you fear that everyone there will be much more accomplished than you.
Don’t worry. Give it a chance.
Last weekend I attended the Newcastle Writing Conference, run by New Writing North, and held at Northumbria University. I’ve been to a few of their previous events and always come away with something, whether it’s a renewed sense of motivation, some interesting new writer friends, or a few nuggets of useful information.
This year’s event was focused on writing in the digital age, with list of industry speakers including publishers, agents, writers, bloggers and vloggers.
It was a really interesting day and possibly one of the more interesting conferences I’ve been to.
But if you’re still not sure, here are four reasons it’s worth taking a chance on a writing conference.
Going to a writing event never fails to inspire me and increase my motivation. Whether it’s talking to other new writers or hearing the stories of those who have already travelled this road, being immersed in a day of conversation about writing reignites the passion that can ebb as the everyday rush of life takes over.
The keynote speech at this year’s Newcastle Writing Conference was given by author Meg Rosoff, who didn’t publish her first book until she was 46. She spoke with a lot of self-deprecating humour about her previous career in advertising and how she had given up on writing for many years before deciding to finally give it a go. Even then, she struggled to find her niche and work on the book she really wanted to write.
Hearing other writers’ stories is always inspiring; by its nature, writing is a very isolated occupation. It’s easy to feel you exist in a vacuum, with no access to support or feedback, particularly when you’re struggling. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the years – and I can’t say this often enough – it’s that every writer goes through the same things: the self-doubt, the uncertainty, the lack of motivation.
And if they can push through it, there’s no reason why you can’t do the same.
Being from the north of England, I think this is especially important, as much of the publishing industry in this country is focused in and around London. New Writing North do a great job of bringing some really exciting and prestigious speakers to their events and it’s always clear that those people enjoy attending and sharing their knowledge.
As well as having the chance to attend workshops and panel talks with publishing professionals, the conference gave me the chance to chat to other local writers about their projects.
Plus there’s always a really busy discussion on Twitter around the event. The hashtag #NclWritingConf was full of lots of excited writing chat.
Tips and advice
At this year’s Newcastle Writing Conference, we had the opportunity to choose two workshops to attend. There was a good selection, from Meet the Agent, to classes on blogging and vlogging, to editing advice.
I went along to a session on pitching your work and one on improving your digital presence.
The pitching session was one of the most useful parts of the day for me, as I always struggle to distil my novel into a couple of sentences and find myself rambling whenever I’m asked what the story is about.
Within two minutes of the session starting, I had a wave of inspiration, after Northumbria University’s Steve Chambers gave a couple of example pitches and everything clicked into place.
In the afternoon, I attended a group with author Nikesh Shukla and Ben Willis, who is Head of Digital Publicity at Transworld. I’ve followed Nikesh on Twitter for a while and really enjoyed some of his stories about experimenting with crazy videos and book trailers, just to see what would happen.
This trailer for his novel, Meatspace, is a lot of fun and I actually stopped into Waterstones on the way home to buy a copy of the book (affiliate link above).
There were plenty of opportunities for the audience to ask questions throughout the day and many people took reams of notes.
It was also exciting to see book blogger Simon Savidge from Savidge Reads and vlogger Sanne Vliegenthart from Books and Quills speaking at the event. Blogs have become an essential part of the publishing world, whether it’s for writers to network and promote their books, or for publishing houses to reach out and make connections with readers and bloggers.
It will be interesting to see how things develop in this space as people get more and more creative.
A passion for books
The day’s final panel was an all-female group including an agent, editors and a journalist. They spent the last hour raving about the fantastic books they’re currently working on, giving us lists of recommendations.
When you’re a writer, it’s easy to get caught up in your own work and stop seeing the wider picture of the publishing industry. But events like these are important as you realise just how much work goes in to producing a single book and putting it in the hands of the right reader.
For many people, working in publishing is more than a career; it’s almost a calling, expanding outwards into other areas of their lives. Books have a way of doing that, of overwhelming you in such a positive, emotional way.
I think this tweet sums up a lot of the day for me.
So, have you ever been to a writing conference? If not, what’s stopping you?